Tips to stay safe when getting outdoors in Maine this winter

AUGUSTA — A broad coalition of Maine conservation groups, state agencies and outdoor brand businesses has launched a series of recommendations to help people safely enjoy fresh air this winter.
While outdoor activities are great ways to stay healthy during Maine’s winter, it is important for everyone venturing to Maine’s public parks and land trust preserves to continue following COVID-19 health guidance, the group said. In addition, all should be prepared for short days, cold temperatures, snow and ice, and ever-changing, unpredictable conditions.
“Our goal is to help create safe experiences for everyone,” said Amanda Beal, Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry commissioner. “This partnership’s goal is to inform and remind residents and visitors that we can and should enjoy the tranquility and peace of our outdoors this winter while preventing the spread of COVID-19.”
“Maine’s conservation and recreation communities, natural resource agencies, and outdoor brand leaders developed checklists to help us all enjoy Maine’s outdoors in ways that are safe and responsible this winter,” said Doreen MacGillis, chair of the Maine Land Trust Network.
Tips to take into account are:

* Dress for success: Be aware of conditions and bring appropriate gear to match those conditions, including, snowshoes, ice grips, and plenty of layers to stay warm. Local outdoor stores are available to give advice on appropriate clothing and equipment. Consider buying a Maine-made brand.
* Check before you go: While many conservation lands remain open during the winter, access roads and parking areas may not be accessible. At the same time, conditions may not be safe or appropriate for desired activities such as ice fishing. Visit websites to see the latest information on closures and to learn about current conditions.
* Know what’s available: Consider visiting a nearby wildlife management area, or a less-trafficked state park, public land, or land trust preserve. (Maine Trail Finder is a great resource.)
* Don’t take risks: Stick to familiar terrain to avoid injuries, which add stress on first responders and medical resources. If you’re headed out alone, let someone know where you’re going and be especially careful.

* Practice physical distancing: Stay at least six feet away from other people who do not live in your household. Step aside when passing other people on the trail and be considerate – it’s different than how you’ve experienced the outdoors in the past, but necessary as we try to stay safe.
* Wear a mask: When you’re in the vicinity of others, even with six feet of separation, a mask will help keep everyone safer.
* Have a plan B: If the parking lot is full, the destination is too crowded. If your first destination has a busy parking lot, go to the next spot on your list. Do not park on public or private roads where snowbanks prohibit parking completely off of the road.
* If you’re sick, stay home: It puts others at risk when you leave home while exhibiting symptoms related to COVID-19, or if you have recently been exposed to the virus.
* If you or friends or family are traveling from out of state, please adhere to Maine’s travel and quarantine guidelines.

“Getting outdoors is extremely beneficial to both your physical and mental health,” said Judy Camuso, Maine Inland Fisheries and Wildlife commissioner. “Enjoy Maine’s natural resources this winter in safe and responsible ways and we can work through this unique time together.
Organizations partnering on the initiative are Appalachian Mountain Club, Forest Society of Maine, Maine Audubon, Maine Coast Heritage Trust, Maine DACF, Maine DIFW, Maine Land Trust Network, Maine Office of Outdoor Recreation, Maine Outdoor Brands, Maine Trail Finder, Maine Trails Coalition and The Nature Conservancy in Maine.